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US-Gulf summit opens in Saudi capital
King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 21, 2017.  Bandar Algaloud—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Senate May Block Part of President Trump's Saudi Arms Deal

Jun 13, 2017

The Senate is expected Tuesday to vote on a resolution seeking to block part of President Trump's proposed $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Critics of the arms package say it could further entangle the U.S. in a disastrous civil war in Yemen, where Saudi forces have been accused of war crimes.

The resolution only seeks to block a portion of the overall arms deal, which was struck in May between Trump and Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during Trump's first trip abroad as president. The proposed arms deal includes a range of defense services and equipment, including patrol boats, Patriot missiles, and THAAD missile defense systems.

Co-sponsored by Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul and Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Al Franken of Minnesota, the resolution of disapproval specifically targets a proposed $510 million sale of precision-guided munitions, which have reportedly been used by Saudi forces against civilian targets in Yemen. The measure to block the sale was buoyed Monday when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also signaled his support, and again on Tuesday when Republican Indiana Sen. Todd Young also backed the measure.

According to Oxfam, Saudi Arabia's deployment of the weapons in question have " compounded the horrors" faced by civilians in Yemen, where a humanitarian crisis affecting more than 19 million people is unfolding amid the conflict and crushing famine. Opponents of the sale say it would embolden Riyadh's military intervention in Yemen's bloody civil war, in which over 10,000 people have been killed.

Read More: The Big Problem with President Trump's Record Arms Deal with Saudi Arabia

"Our bipartisan resolution would block the latest weapon sale and help demonstrate that the U.S. won’t stand for what the Saudis are doing to innocent people," Franken said in a statement in late May, when the bill was first introduced.

"Given Saudi Arabia’s past support of terror, poor human rights record, and questionable tactics in its war in Yemen, Congress must carefully consider and thoroughly debate if selling them billions of dollars of arms is in our best national security interest at this time," Paul said in the bipartisan statement.

Oxfam, which is one of the main providers of humanitarian assistance in Yemen, last week called on lawmakers to support the resolution, predicting a close vote that could have a significant impact on millions of people.

"The situation in Yemen is dire," the organization said in an emailed statement. "Oxfam is calling on Senators to support the bipartisan resolution of disapproval so we stop providing unconditional support for the Saudi-led coalition and selling weapons being used in violation of international humanitarian law."

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